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Resistance To Learning New Concepts

Posted by Banjophobic on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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What is is about learning new things about how music works, that is so terrible in many players eyes? Recent and previous threads about 'scales' on the BHO, are  small examples of a pervasive attitude. Why is learning scales such a bad thing? What is the issue with them that dissuades some from even attempting to learn something about it? 

I'm continually baffled that even experienced players, who claim to  not know 'theory' and who 'don't need it', don't realize that  to be very good, you must know it. The  thing is you don't know you know it.  In the various discussions on threads about 'scales', the naysayers basic argument is thi: 'why learn them?" To which I answer 'Why not?"  It simply expands you as a player and deepens not only your understanding of music, but your appreciation for it.

As my friend John Steele said the other day in the chatroom, "I hate when folks quote that Chet Atkins quote about someone asking him if he knew any theory, and he said "not enough to hurt my playing".  Chet actually knew quite a lot of theory but its become a mantra for staying ignorant and being proud of it. As musicians, we should always strive to know how this all works on a fundamental lever. Knowing more about muisc is never a bad thing to a player who is dedicated to being more advanced. 

This 'Im fine knowing just what I know' is a really limited attitude...just saying.



24 comments on “Resistance To Learning New Concepts”

quikcarl Says:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 @7:54:03 PM

I believe John that the people who want the new or average banjo player to think they don't need certain things, use this as a way of feeling like they are better than others, when in fact they haven't a clue and probably why they don't play well with others. I personally don't care what they think I need to learn, its what I think I need to learn, and that is as much as my mind can absorb when it comes to music.........and THEORY. Thanks for the thread JB

Bill Rogers Says:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 @10:46:09 PM

Years ago I heard Doc Watson advocate learning scales at a workshop. So much for the mountain-isolated musically unlearned folk musician. I've never taken the time to work on scales, not out of perversity, but just pure laziness. Anyone who suggests it's not useful or unneeded is talking through their hat. Another thoughtful commentary, John.

banjerman Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @6:48:36 AM

The very same ones that wrote those comments are continiously parsing words over any subject on the forums. Just because a poster says something it doesnt give it any merit. They'd argue with Jesus my Mom used to say.

jonah4832 Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @7:39:00 AM

Whether I need them or not, is irrelevent right now inmy study's. However I still do warmup exercises with scales, and have found that it is improving my playing. Sure they start out real slow but somehow gradually as you learn them speed increases, then as I emphsis certian notes in the scale it changes and sounds quite different. I am just a beginner only played a yr, but I know that everthing in music is built around scales. Any thing new is hard until you do it a few days.

Banjophobic Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @1:02:13 PM

The most I read the replies in scale threads, the more I see the negativity surrounding the whole topic. Its really amazing to me. Do folks on writing forums fight about whether or not to use letters, or learn grammar?? No wonder banjo player get portrayed as slobbering idiots in movies and jokes.....

Laurence Diehl Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @1:22:54 PM

That "...not enough to hurt my playing" quote has been attributed to many people and is one that I always found annoying. The embrace of ignorance. Some people think you have to make a choice between a systematic understanding of music and "playing from the gut". But many, many great players do both.

Banjophobic Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @1:25:41 PM

Right on Laurence, the best world is where both twains meet. Why can't you know what's going on while you play, but also do it with feeling? Seems that folks often assume learning theory means the feeling part of your brain rots away..lol. That only happens if you let it.

m06 Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @2:10:20 PM

I don't get the resistance to learning scales either. They're the building blocks of everything we play and so what's to lose about understanding (and practicing) what we're doing? Because that's all it is.

rgoad Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @2:27:50 PM

A lot of people want to be king of a small country. I think this is a variation on the "Earl didn't play it that way" and other ploys people used to not only remain the best by some definition, but to invalidate other people and approaches that threaten the kingdom. It's sort of like holding yourself back in third grade until you are the smartest kid in the class. There is no doubt scale practice is good for you.

Banjophobic Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @3:58:19 PM

Now theres the inferrence that learning scales is only for 'elite' players or players who fancy themselves 'elite'. what the ^%$#@?

rgoad Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @4:21:11 PM

Even if that were true, why wouldn't you want to if all that stood between you and being 'elite' is learning scales?

Banjophobic Says:
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @5:49:10 PM

oh well, to each his/her own. No amount of logic will prevail I dont think. Its one of those things that operate on a '
need to know' basis and some folks just dont 'need' to know anything beyond their own noses.

larry214 Says:
Thursday, July 18, 2013 @3:46:03 AM

John I totally agree with your post, I am starting back up after quite a bit away..and the first thing I dug up was Tony Ts 'Melodic Banjo book (from back in the day) and started playing scales. I wanted to build dexterity and get a feel for working up the neck along with building a foundation you have been discussing. For me it is a multi layered practice technique, if I was a teacher it would be part of the basics I would require.

banjoy Says:
Friday, July 19, 2013 @11:32:53 AM

Well I sure hope my contributions to those threads are not misconstrued in this way. I've spent a whole lot of time studying one scale, the D scale, and every tune I've written, all three of them, are our of "D" or Dm. Some day I'll move on to another scale LOL.

I still think transposing the Kreutzer scale studies (and other studies like them) from studies for classical musicians, to banjo tablature, would be of huge benefit to banjo world.

Banjophobic Says:
Saturday, July 20, 2013 @5:36:57 AM

Some of my students who have grasped scales and who are using them to great effect can attest to how valuable they are. One of them emailed me after reading a recent thread about melodic style and scales. His email just said " Duh! " Sometimes simple answers are the best ones,lol

neqoda Says:
Sunday, July 21, 2013 @10:17:24 AM

When I first started to learn how to play, the two teachers I had said "just play this and that". I guess that "just follow me" has its place but for me it didn't tell me what I was doing. Why do I need to do that. I had the hardest time tring to get that across to them that what your teaching is great in getting me to play sooner. But, in the long run it really isn't helping me. Learning the scales and chord groupings and play rools over these things, is ear training for me. I stopped playing at one point because I could not get that across to them what I wanted them to teach me. I had a freind (who has past away) said "I understand what want, but I can't help you". I'm back at it now with a different way of coming at learning, Scales, chords and all that goes with it are tools that I use to make music not just play what someone else has already done.

Tim179 Says:
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @12:47:40 PM

I couldn't agree more.

Banjophobic Says:
Thursday, July 25, 2013 @7:27:21 AM

The thread where this blog originated from is still alive,haha. Now, it appears that anyone who was in the Masters of The Five String Book, who said 'they never practiced scales', means no one else should. And if you were not in that book, or are not going to be featured in a future one, your viewpoints are worthless,lol. That book's comments have been taken out of context so many times it is ridiculous.
I suppose is Earl has said 'don't learn chords' then we all should forget chords.

jwoods Says:
Friday, July 26, 2013 @10:58:46 PM

No one in MOTFSB ever said no one else should practice scales...I have no idea where you got that, except that you drew the conclusion on your own to fit your claims.

The example I gave you was John Hickman on page 241, who said he never practiced scales. He's a pretty succesful, nationally known player. That's a fact.

Maybe the resistance you're feeling, John, is against having your concepts of what makes a "better player" rammed down people's throats.

That's something that MOTFSB doesn't do.

Sometimes it's not the message, or even the messenger...it's the way the message is delivered.

Banjophobic Says:
Sunday, July 28, 2013 @7:30:05 AM

Jwoods
Some of what I wrote is hyperbole but the point is valid I believe.
Have I done something to offend you? You seem to think so. Show me where I 'rammed' anything down your or anyone else's throat.You may be misreading intent or simply just don't like me for whatever reason. My comments here reflect my thoughts about how folks like you look at a book like this,select a quote from one player and use that to say 'because X said not to" you'll use that as gospel. Read my reply to the last post of yours on my latest blog about MOTFSB. I wont be posting on that other thread anymore as it's not serving any useful purpose there.
Regardless of whether or not you just dislike me or what I have to say, I'll continue to be 'real' with people and with myself. The only thing I continue to do is ask 'WHY?" in that thread and the only answer I get from you and others is not one formulated on any experience with scales or trying to study them. The answers I get are "why should I", "so and so said he didnt and he's famous", "since you arent listed in that book or are famous enough your logic is faulty" and so and and so forth.
Basically you are trying to poopoo on scales from hearsay and hero worship alone.
If my continuing to say 'why not ' or 'give them a try' bugs you that much, just ignore it and stay happy. Personally, I'm not on a crusade to win you over and I'm just being myself, trying to help someone reading that who will be open minded enough to learn something about them. Its not about being in a book' or being 'more well known' to me-pardon my language but I dont give a damn about that.
I do care about helping people, just like I was helped over my banjo lifetime. One thing that really helped me tremendously was learning some practical theory, scales being one of them. If John Hickman doesn't want to that his prerogative. That doesn't mean anything to those who do.

lazyarcher Says:
Sunday, July 28, 2013 @10:00:10 AM

Thank you for your posts and for this blog. I try to stir a pot or two in those threads with the same view of keeping it real...real for those who are looking to learn. For those who are satisfied with their journey of study and progression without the basics, congratulations. However holding up ignorance as some sort of pathway to self improvement is absurd...regardless of how its packaged.

jwoods Says:
Sunday, July 28, 2013 @12:27:31 PM

Same comment for you here as in the"MOTFS" entry, because you're saying the same things...

You have a knack for drawing conclusions from things that were never said or written, twisting what was said or written to fit your claims, and creating controvery where none exists.

The thread (and all the posts) are still there for anyone to read.

I think folks on BHO are intelligent enough to come to their own conclusions and "be their own player", without your rants.

Banjophobic Says:
Sunday, July 28, 2013 @8:37:39 PM

Like I said in your repeated post..stop reading and move along.

Tim179 Says:
Sunday, August 25, 2013 @6:53:33 PM

Banjophobic. I personally you are 100% right. I play piano (by ear and by music),Guitar and banjo. Music isn't just about hot licks or how others do it. It's about how far you want to go with it. Personally I like the fact that I know theory and scales and how to put different chord structures together and read charts. I makes things a whole lot easier when you are working on a new song or a new break to know where you are going with it. I'm not saying every one wants to take the time to learn and keep learning,but if you are going to progress even it's just for one's own self then one should learn as much you can. Just because a book doesn't stress basic music theory or just because Earl didn't do it,doesn't mean a musician can't keep learning no matter how advanced or how famous. Just a thought.

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